By Aaron Davis (for JHWeekly.com)
Jackson Hole, Wyo. – Teton Valley music fans have watched Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real grow up, live in their backyard. Two sets at Targhee Fests, a couple of shows at The Trap Bar, an impromptu showing at the Knotty Pine and Music on Main, The Real has sent a buzz across the Tetons. This established timeline is one that our corner of the country rarely gets to be apart of – watching a young artist mature and enjoying it along the way. (Grace Potter & the Nocturnals come to mind?).
While Lukas resembles the idea of a spitting image of his father, Willie – most noticeably in the reedy familiarity of Lukas’ nasally vocal tone, the fondness for marijuana (songs), and the knack for crooning a slow ballad – there are some heady divergences too. Lukas, at a mere twenty-three, has already released two studio albums, two live albums and an EP. And though Willie has an astonishing 100-plus albums to his credit, his first album didn’t spin until he was twenty-nine.
What’s more important, though, is that there’s an obvious legacy that is both being embraced and getting advanced. The embrace began when Lukas was a teenager, playing in Willie’s band for seven years before quitting school and starting his own band. Now that Lukas and his band have been touring for a few years and making a path of their own, a landmark collaboration of Willie and Lukas comes in the form of this year’s Heroes. The eclectic and star-studded album includes appearances from Snoop Dogg, Merle Haggard, Ray Price and others, yet hearing Lukas and his father sing together is a weave that is blood-induced.
While Heroes spent five weeks at #1 on the Americana Chart, it’s the Promise of the Real’s release, Wasted, that has helped push the band out of a famous father’s shadow. Lukas recently called Neil Young a “distant mentor,” who suggested the band try recording their new album in analog, at 192khz instead of 48khz. The band, which also includes drummer Anthony LoGerfo, percussionist Tato Melgar and bassist Corey McCormick, took a summer’s worth of tunes that Lukas had written on acoustic guitar and morphed them into the harder, rockin’, danceable material that they are becoming known for. The first single from the record is the title track, “Wasted,” a feel-good tune with a strutty vibe.
“I had just finished Keith Richards’ book Life, when I wrote that song,” Nelson said in a press release. “It was kind of influenced by the Stones, and I wanted the song to be something that reflected our live show and that I could really move to onstage.”
Stylistically, Lukas’ brand of rock splices rock and country that is equal parts Hendrix wailing, Dylan phrasing, and his dad’s vocal tone. High-octane blues soloing with his mouth, scissor kicks, bare feet and jumping off of speakers, back-to-back posing, and even taking his shirt off are but cards in the deck. “I’ve tried to adopt a certain philosophy about life … keep family close, stay grounded as possible and try to stay in the moment,” Lukas shared from his Venice Beach home last year. “That’s where the band name comes from.”
Toasted Buffalo presents Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, 8:30 p.m., Friday at the Pink Garter Theatre. Tickets are $18/advance or $23/day-of-show, available at The Rose, Pinky G’s and PinkGarterTheatre.com. 733-1500.